Saturday, 28 May 2011

Sri Lankan Muslim Style Chicken Biriyani

This is also known as Shahi Chicken Biriyani in some other parts of the world. A muslim cook who worked for my father named Ajimi made this with so much of Expertise. This is a recipe I wanted to try for so many years, however, half cooked rice always haunted me. So I always restored to the 'Make the Curry and Mix with Rice Biriyani'. Its not wrong, but its not exactly what I wanted. Overall cooking time is around 1 1/4 hours. Here we go then..

Part 1: Marinade of chicken

- 30-40 pieces of chicken (any part) of size 1 inch.
- 4 tablespoons yogurt
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- roughly the same amount of ginger
- 4 green chilies
- 2-3 tablespoons mixed spices (thuna-paha as in Sri-Lankan, or dry garam masala as in indian)
- 1 stick of celery ( Not there in the original recipe but works just fine)
- 2 tablespoons Coriander leaves chopped ( I used the paste)
- 2/4 teaspoons chili powder (depending on how hot you want)
- 2 teaspoons tumeric
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper

grind garlic, ginger, green chilies, celery together to make a paste (need not be a smooth paste).

mix it with the pieces of chicken and then add in the rest of ingredients, mix well and leave for at least half an hour, while you prepare the next bits.

Part 2: Preparation of Rice

Get around 750g of Basmati Rice (not long grain, but may be a thin/small type of rice should do), wash it and add enough of water ( around 1 1/2 inch above the surface of rice) and boil with added salt.

Keep an eye on it constantly, and stop boiling it when it is half done (half tender), and drain the water.

Part 3: For the Biriyani curry

- 3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in to 1 inch squares (1 cubic inch :))
- 4 big onions ( cooking or red), sliced not chopped
- 3 tomatoes, again cut in to small pieces.
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon green cardamoms
- 3-4 1-inch size cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons oil (should be enough to fry the onions enough)
- 400ml coconut milk ( if you cant find or you dont like, water should do)
N.B. note this might vary with your amount of potatoes and rice. This is equal to the amount you would need to cook the other half of the rice and the potatoes.

By the time you are done with chopping these and starting to fry, it should be roughly half and hour, and chicken should be ready to use. If not please drag your time till it is half and hour :)

fry the onions until golden brown. Towards they being brown, add the cumin, cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon. let them fry for a bit until you get a spicy aroma.

Now, add in the marinade chicken and tomatoes and potatoes in to the frying pan. Then add in the coconut milk and let it cook until the chicken is tender, and potatoes are almost (3/4) done.

Part 4: Cooking of Biriyani

In a separate cooking utensil, big enough to cook the rice and the chicken, apply some butter on the bottom.

Now add in 3/4 of the half cooked rice in to it.

on top of that rice, add the curry you prepared in part 3.

Now, cover the curry, with the remaining 1/4 of half cooked rice.

Cover the utensil tight ( 'Ajimi' used to prepare a dough out of wheat floor, and paste with it the lid and the saucepan with it)

Timing is as follows, and is important for the right texture and outcome:

5 minutes in high heat (5/5)
10 minutes in medium heat (3/5)
15 minutes in low heat (1/5)

DO NOT STIR WHILE IT IS BEING COOKED. Do not worry too much, if you feel the bottom of the rice is being overcooked, it is a matter of not using the correct amount of water/coconut milk. This wont harm your dish much :)

Finally garnish the rice with coriander leaves. Some people hate coriander leaves, so know your guests before doing this. 

Part 5: Fancy stuff (Optional)

Garnish the cooked biriyani with fried onions, fried cashew nuts and sultana.

Get a small bowl full of rice from the top, color it with red and orange and then mix with the entire rice.

- Unhealthy bit: add butter on the top of the cooked rice.


  1. Hi I have seen so many recipes adding yogurt. this is the only recipe which has coconut milk. do you get the coconut milk taste while eating?

    1. It is definitely taste different than when cooked with yogurt. However, as far as I know in sri lankan biriyani recipies you dont use yogurt. Yogurt is for indian biriyani.

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  3. Ok thank you varuna im trying this recipe tomorrow i relly want to make the buriyani which i have eaten in SL. Hope its comes on well. Im bit scard of the half cooked rice.

    1. To be on the safe side, leave the potatoes and do it only with meat. In that case around 200ml of coconut milk would do.

      Stop cooking the rice when they are just crunchy on the bite, and the outer seems to be cooked. Drain the water and leave aside.

      The theory is to cook the remaining bit of the rice with the steam, that is why sealing the pot is important.

      let me know how it goes :).

  4. Hey varuna i tried I tried is yesterday it was very tasty.. Not like the packet buriyani at all it had SL flavour to it. I should take the rice bit more early. Thank you again

  5. Great step by step instructions. Very detailed, you have inspired me to try this intimidating dish. You really should write more recipes. Thumbs up!

  6. I tried and it came out excellent. Everyone had second and even third helpings. Thank you so much!

  7. I am concerned about the timings. Can you tell me exactly how many minutes I should cook the rice before draining. I am planning to use exactly 500g basmati rice and adjust the other ingredient quantities accordingly. I am very excited try this recipe. Usually I make Indian biriyani and am tired of the yogurt taste. Thanks.

    1. Sorry Nalak for late reply, just found this message. Bring it to boil, and leave it for 1-2 minutes while boiling. Then drain.